There are many things that make the Halifax area an amazing place to live and visit, but for me, the one that stands above all else is the ocean.
The actual shoreline stretches approximately 150km in length, and the scenic Halifax drive along the coast can be done in about 3 hours (just under 200km) from Hubbards up the eastern shore to Ecum Secum.
The diverse coast includes many incredible beaches, several of them within minutes of downtown Halifax. So get your friends together, pack some snacks, bring a bathing suit and don’t forget your camera. Let’s go explore some of my favourite beaches in HRM!
TIP: Want to experience the beach without the crowds? Take a trip throughout the week or better yet plan, an evening trip and enjoy the crashing waves while you watch the sunset (bring a blanket), it’s the perfect date idea (you’re welcome). Feeling more adventurous? The best way to explore Nova Scotia’s hidden islands and beaches is by kayak. Contact East Coast Outfitters in Halifax, or Coastal Adventures in Tangier for more information.
10. McNabs Island Provincial Park
Not many people are aware that McNabs Island has a beautiful beach. Located just a couple km’s from downtown Halifax, McNab’s is usually an afterthought because you need a boat to get there. Being on McNabs is a unique experience in itself, with old forts that date back to the 1860’s. You can even make a night of it and camp, giving you more time to explore the 5km long island. The best beach is located at McNabs Cove, where you can sit and watch the boats come in and out of the Halifax Harbour
Getting there: You can get there by boat/kayak or you can charter a boat from downtown Halifax or Eastern Passage. On my recent trip out to McNabs with a few friends, we left from Fisherman’s Cove in Eastern Passage for only $20 return, and were able to bring our bikes on to the island! Visit mcnabsisland.ca for more info!
9. Chocolate Lake Beach
Let’s go inland for this one. Located just 5 minutes from downtown Halifax, Chocolate Lake is the perfect spot on a nice warm summers day for a quick getaway. A great spot for families (lifeguards are usually on duty).
8. Conrads Beach
Just a 25 minute drive from downtown Halifax, Conrads Beach is a great spot to take off your shoes and walk in the sand. Located just a few minutes before Lawrencetown Beach, Conrads is one of the nicest sand beaches around. You can also take a stroll around the corner towards Stoney Beach (to your left, if you’re looking at the ocean) and explore one of the best spots on the east coast for kite/wind surfing and standup paddle boarding.
Getting there: The only downside is the parking lot can only fit about 6 cars, so you may have to park and walk a little bit.
See map and directions
7. Clam Harbour Beach Provincial Park
Home of the annual “Sandcastle Competition” (August 24, 2014), Clam Harbour features a long white sand beach with a unique shallow tide stream that often means warmer water for swimmers. A true gem, located just 1 hour from downtown Halifax.
6. Bayswater Beach
Located just outside Halifax city limits on the scenic Route 329 drive, Bayswater is yet another picturesque white sand beach. Sitting on the beach, you can even look across St. Margaret’s Bay and see the world famous Peggy’s Cove in the distance. This gem is located about 1 hour from downtown Halifax, but the drive is well worth it. Give yourself some extra time and enjoy the coastal views and unique shops along the way.
5. Crystal Crescent Beach Provincial Park
Not only is Crystal Crescent a beautiful white sand beach (actually three beaches), it also features a great hiking trail along a diverse coastline. The trail takes you on a 13km loop mostly along the ocean, through some wooded areas and massive ocean rocks (similar to Peggy’s Cove). Located just 35 minutes from downtown Halifax, this is a must see area. As you are lying on the beach and soaking up the sun, you can see the Sambro Island Lighthouse, which is the oldest surviving lighthouse in North America (1759).
4. Rainbow Haven Beach Provincial Park
Definitely one of the most popular “beach bum” spots on a hot summers day, Rainbow Haven simply can’t be left off this list. Located 30 minutes from downtown Halifax, Rainbow Haven is tucked away in a cove which can often mean less wind, and thus more heat from the sun. On a hot summers weekend, make sure to get there early!
3. Martinique Beach Provincial Park
Considered the longest sandy beach in Nova Scotia, Martinique Beach stretches over 5km long and is a popular surfing spot (rentals available). In addition to the amazing sandy beach, there are plenty of boardwalks and wooded areas to explore. Martinique is also a protected area for the piping plover, as well as a wildlife refuge for migratory waterfowl. It is about a 1 hour drive from downtown Halifax and definitely one of my favourites.
2. Lawrencetown Beach Provincial Park
Lawrencetown is probably one of the most well known beaches in Nova Scotia, primarily gaining popularity for it’s sometimes world-class surfing (rentals available). Lawrencetown is also the quintessential Nova Scotia beach, featuring sand, rocks, cliffs, beach grass, big surf and surrounded by wildlife. Whether you come here to surf, swim, soak up the sun, walk the dog, or just sit and breath in the ocean air, Lawrencetown is a must visit.
1. Sable Island National Park Reserve of Canada
Did you know that Sable Island is part of Halifax? Located approximately 300km from downtown Halifax in the depths of the Atlantic Ocean, Sable Island is 42km in length and only 1.5km at its widest. The island is literally a sandbar (second largest in the world) and is well known for causing over 350 recorded shipwrecks. It is also one of the most beautiful and natural places I have ever seen. It is home to over 500 wild horses, numerous tropical birds and butterflies, sharks, whales and is one of the worlds largest breeding grounds for grey seals. It’s kind of cruel of me to put this on the list, because getting there is not easy (unless you have lots of disposable income). For about $3,000 you can get there via Adventure Canada’s boat tour or you can charter a flight through Maritime Air for about $5,000/day You can also use your own vessel, but you will need to get permission first. Last summer, I had the incredible opportunity to witness two friends become the first known people to ever paddle a kayak to Sable Island from mainland Nova Scotia. The project was called “Paddle to Sable” and was intended to raise awareness around mental health and raise funds to send kids to Brigadoon Village kids camp. If Sable Island is not on your bucket list, it needs to be!